Ottawa's e-scooter program will launch this month
The city of Ottawa is preparing to launch the third season of the e-scooter pilot project in approximately two weeks, with new restrictions on riders and the companies operating the electric scooters.
Bird Canada and Neuron Mobility will be the two operators offering e-scooters for rent in the central area of Ottawa this summer and fall. The contracts were awarded after the city issued a request for proposals and evaluated the scooters' technology features.
Transportation Committee chair Tim Tierney says the city delayed the launch as staff looked to address the concerns of residents and some councillors about sidewalk riding and improper parking.
"I've been getting lots of emails, 'Why aren't they on the street yet?' Well, that's because we made a decision as a committee and council that we demanded new technology scooters," Coun. Tierney told Newstalk 580 CFRA's Ottawa Now with Kristy Cameron.
"The old ones, they weren't smart – the new ones are very smart. They prevent sidewalk riding, erratic behaviour, there's a lot more features … they even have noise emitting."
Tierney says city staff have done their due diligence by testing out the scooters offered by the company.
New rules this year include prohibiting e-scooters from riding on sidewalks.
"You get onto a sidewalk on one of these things, which is illegal just like biking, it will rapidly decrease speed, make noise and just stop," Tierney says.
There will be a total combined fleet size of 900 e-scooters, down from 1,200 last year. Staff say each company will be 'phasing' in their total fleets and/or deployment area in the central area over the first few weeks of the season.
E-scooters will be required to emit a continuous sound while in operation, and apps must only allow riders to end their rides in a designated parking area.
Tierney says Ottawa police will conduct a blitz at the start of the e-scooter season to remind riders of the rules of the road.
"I feel very confident this year," Tierney said about whether the new rules will address complaints. "The main issues were always sidewalk riding and parking, and I'll tell you now if you park it and you don't park it in the right spot it tells you … and keeps charging your credit card."
The Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians is raising concerns about the arrival of e-scooters on city streets.
"The scooters were a particular risk to blind other disabled pedestrians but all pedestrians, I remain skeptical over this technology," says Wayne Antle, Ottawa-Gatineau president of Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians. "We’ve yet to see a demonstration of how this technology will work and what I don’t want to see is the e-scooter companies saying, 'We’re going to this technology, we’re going to test it during this pilot.' Well that’s basically saying we’re going to be using vulnerable pedestrians as Guinea Pigs while we test out whether this technology works as it’s supposed to work.”
Antle notes cities Toronto and Montreal have scrapped e-scooter programs over safety concerns.
"I know some people enjoy using them but to me safety trumps that and it’s a real concern to a blind person," Antle said. "I’m totally blind and I would be afraid walking downtown, you know if they operate the same way they operated in the last two years. I know people in wheelchairs that have gone on the street to get around these e-scooters."
Ottawa Bylaw and Regulatory Services will have dedicated officers monitoring parking and relocating/impounding e-scooters.
There were nearly 500,000 trips on e-scooters in Ottawa last year.